Jody Day introduced me to Kirsty Woodard from AWOC (Ageing without Children) where I was invited to photography the AWOC and The Beth Johnson Foundation ‘Our Voices’ talk on the 16th May. There were a number of speakers from different backgrounds (childless and otherwise) who spoke about their concerns and experiences with ageing. The content of the talks included ‘who are the people ageing without children?’, ‘our invisibility’, ‘being judged for not having children’, ‘losing touch with other generations’ and ‘who will tell my story?’. It was a very insightful and thought provoking evening especially when I heard one (childless) women’s story of caring for her elderly mother and her concerns about who would look after her in her old age.
I have to admit that I still feel that, at 45, I have time to think about what will happen in my old age and at the same time (when I am not in denial) I realise that I am of an age that I do need to start thinking about that time in my life when I will need someone to speak up for me, someone who will protect my wishes if I am unable to speak for myself. I guess it’s about protecting my future self which is very daunting.
We discussed Elderhood during Jody’s plan B mentorship program where we looked at our hopes and fears about ageing without children reviewing our beliefs about our lives from now on and what exactly we believe about our own ageing. There were many negative and unhelpful beliefs where it was great to have the opportunity to get mine out of my head so that I could face the fears and work on turing them into positive beliefs. I have promised myself that my future (and marriage) will be more adventurous and am excited about planning new experiences with my husband but I am also conscious of the people in my life and having strong relationships that I can carry with me well into my future. It does feel like I have to work harder to maintain my friendships because I don’t have children, whilst making more of an effort to ‘stay in touch’ with the people around me as well as meeting new people that I may possibly form strong bonds with. I also have to make the effort to renew my will, organise my Lasting Power of Attorney, draft my ‘letter of wishes’ etc … stuff that I have definitely been avoiding…
On a brighter note, for those of you who are at that place where you have been thinking about your future and are concerned about what ageing without children may mean for you the AWOC conference is on 27th June https://awoc.org/conf16/ and it is set to be another great event.
2 weeks ago I attended a 3 day workshop run by Pip, Tony and Jo (who assisted with great care) at Pilgrim Projects in Landbeach. The workshop was funded by NHS England with he view to it’s participants creating a digital story.
Day 1; started with a story circle where after our introductions we briefly outlined our stories after which we spent time writing our scripts. Although I attended the workshop with he intention of documenting my difficulties at dealing with childlessness I did struggled to make this relevant to my work as a manager in the NHS. It was hard to let go of the story I have told in my book and to tell the story in a different voice, from a different angle. I must also mention the lunch which was great, we were definitely spoilt!
Day 2; I had a revelation!!! The difficulties I encountered over the past year trying to manage my team whilst dealing with my grief started to unfold. and my script came to life. It was funny how I didn’t make the connection before, it was almost like there were 2 me’s; 1 that was grieving and 1 that was trying to hold it together at work and the 2 were separated. Once I connected them back together I started to see the whole me. Pip, Tony and Jo were integral part of this process. They facilitated the development of our stories with such care, compassion and insight it was such a pleasure to watch them at work. We indulged in another great lunch and spent the evening around the kitchen table sharing Indian take-out, wine and lots of laughter. Yes we were spoilt!
Day 3; after recording our stories we spent the morning adding our pictures, choosing our music and finalising our work. After yet another fabulous lunch (I should have weighed myself at the start of this) we sat down to the premier viewing of our stories. What an emotional moment. When we started we found it hard to see how we could develop our stories, at the end we proudly sat watching, with tears in our eyes, what we had accomplished.
During the 3 days I spoke to Pip and Tony about Jody and Gateway Women. They expressed an interest in working with anyone from the GW community who would like to produce a digital story of their own. It doesn’t have to be work related and it can just be for you (remaining unpublished). I have meet a Gateway Woman who has done this for herself and writing my book I, and the other participants, found it a wonderfully healing process that gave us a voice that we never had before. My digital story has also given my voice another dimension and platform to be heard. I would encourage you all to do it if you can and for anyone who is interested please let me know and I’ll speak to Pip and Tony to see what can be arranged. They would love to hear from you.
Please let me know if you’ve done something like this before and how you found the experience and please let me know if you’d like to take part in a digital storytelling workshop in the future. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
For now I’d like to leave you with my digital story… (click here)